The first guests have checked into quarantine hotels in England today as part of the latest measures designed to prevent new cases of COVID-19
Those arriving into England from one of the 33 high-risk countries will have to stay in selected quarantine hotels for 10 days, at the cost of £1,750 for each single adult.
UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “As this deadly virus evolves, so must our defences. We have already taken tough action to limit the spread, protect people and save lives.”
“With the emergence of new variants, we must go further. The rules coming into force today will bolster the quarantine system and provide another layer of security against new variants at the border.”
At least four coaches had arrived at the Radisson Blu Edwardian hotel near to Heathrow Airport on Monday morning, with groups of travellers seen collecting luggage before then heading inside.
This comes after 15 million people in the UK have been vaccinated for the coronavirus, with everyone in the top four of the UK’s priority groups having been offered a vaccine for COVID-19, the nation’s health secretary has now confirmed.
So far, 16 hotels across the country have signed up to take part in the scheme, providing 4,963 rooms, with a further 58,000 more rooms ready on standby, the Department of Health and Social Care have said.
On Saturday Heathrow Airport warned of “significant gaps” that remained in the plan, with a spokeswoman saying that the airport was yet to receive the “necessary reassurances” from the UK government.
On Sunday night she said: “We have been working hard with the government to support the successful implementation of the managed quarantine policy from Monday.
“Good progress has been made to address a number of issues. Queues at the border in recent days have been almost five hours and this is totally unacceptable.
“Border Force today has given us assurance that they will have resource and effective processes at the border to avoid compromising the safety of passengers and those working at the airport, which could necessitate the suspension of some arriving flights.”
Those required to spend 10 days in these quarantine hotels can only arrive at Heathrow Airport, London City Airport, Gatwick Airport, Birmingham Airport, Farnborough Airport or at any of the UK’s military airfields or ports.
And they will face fines of up to £10,000 for failing to quarantine for the required amount of time, or up to 10 years in jail if they are to lie about he country that they are arriving from.
The quarantine hotels packages must be pre-booked and arrivals must stay within their rooms with exceptions only for those with urgent medical assistance, for exercise, or for attending funerals of close family members.
These exceptions to the rules should only occur with “prior permission by a person authorised by the secretary of state for this purpose”.
This comes after AstraZeneca has said that it is on course to roll out a vaccine for COVID-19 that is effective against new variants of the coronavirus by autumn of this year. The company, which had produced a COVID-19 vaccine alongside the University of Oxford, said that clinical trials for the next generation of vaccine would be commencing in the spring.
People coming into the UK from countries that are not on the hotel quarantine list must isolate at home for 10 days and must also complete a COVID-19test on the second and eighth day following their arrival.
Critics have questioned whether or not the hotel quarantine system should be expanded or all inward travel should be banned, as some countries that are not on the hotel quarantine list have now confirmed cases of the South African variant of the coronavirus.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, told SkyNews: “I’m not sure that’s proportionate, and of course having blanket bans on any, for example, air travel into the UK would be very difficult for the supply chains, things like freight.”
He added: “We think we’ve got the right balance – robust measures, but targeted measures.”